Sunday, February 21, 2010

New Years Resolutions: faltered. Prospectus: getting there.

Hm, well it's been a while! So I can now report that my New Decade's resolutions (to read a book of fiction and a book of non-fiction per week) have predictably floundered, but that's okay! I did have enough incentive to read some really cool stuff. My favorite work of fiction so far this year: Jack Kerouac's Dharma Bums, hands down. I always had this perception of Kerouac as kind of a jerk, but Dharma Bums is a surprisingly self-effacing and honest book about trying to live life and kind of understand the meaning of the world. Plus it made me want to go hiking real badly (it should really be called Dharma Hikers, but that sounds lame).

On a note more closely related to my dissertation, I have been working hard to write up a draft of my prospectus, which I just finished last week. I presented the first draft at an Early Americanist Workshop this past Wednesday, where professors and other grad students gave me their reactions. The feedback I got was: to be more specific -- and basic -- about why I've chosen this particular topic. It was good advice to get, and I'll probably hear it a lot more. Because the problem with "dissertating" is that you lose perspective about what "normal" or even "academic" people know about the topic you're researching. The truth is that you, as the dissertator, lose your well-honed ability to recognize how much information others have about your beloved topic. This phenomenon I will call the "dissertation spell," and I am grateful to all who snap me out of it!